Xpress Reviews: Graphic Novels | First Look at New Books, March 2, 2012

Week ending March 2, 2012

Busiek, Kurt (text) & Brent Anderson (illus.). Astro City: Life in the Big City. new ed. DC. 2011. 192p. ISBN 9781401232610. $29.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
DC Comics has republished in hardback the 1995 Homage Comics trade paperback collection of the first Astro City story line. Writer Busiek and cover artist Alex Ross, who became famous to comics fans with their limited series Marvels, here collaborate with Anderson (X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills)‚ who draws all of the interior art‚ to create a city in which superhero action is a frequent occurrence. This volume is a collection of short stories in comic book form, as each issue focuses on one of the superheroes who live in Astro City. These heroes are intentionally written to resemble classic superheroes like Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Fantastic Four. The Astro City heroes, however, aren’t derivative; the authors introduce well-developed, original characters and use them to delve into the unexplored possibilities and unanswered questions of classic superheroes as well as their relationships with the world around them.
Verdict This page-for-page republication of the earlier paperback is strongly recommended for anyone who does not own the previous edition.‚ Robert Mixner, Bartholomew Cty. P.L., Columbus, IN

Loeb, Jeph (text) & Jim Lee (illus.). Batman: Hush Unwrapped Deluxe. DC. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9781401229924. $39.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Hush, one of the finest Batman graphic novels in recent memory, takes Batman on a journey that is as much about the person controlling Batman’s arsenal of enemies as it is about Batman coming to terms with his own past. The story’s popularity is, in no small part, thanks to Lee’s astounding artwork. In this new edition, readers are treated to the novel as Lee originally penciled it, before it was inked‚ the only additions are sound effects and dialog. From the dynamic action scenes in exotic settings and rainy alleyways to emotional moments of introspection, Loeb’s gripping story provides Lee with a wealth of opportunity to showcase his abilities. This raw penciled format seems to suit the story, as Lee’s line work, shading, and compositions so perfectly capture the drama of the story.
Verdict Although Unwrapped is not a replacement for the original 2009 edition of Hush, this volume will thrill artists and Batman devotees.‚ E.W. Goodman, Art Inst. of Pittsburgh

Loeb, Jeph (text) & Tim Sale (illus.). Daredevil: Yellow. Marvel. 2011. 144p. ed. by Jeff Youngquist. ISBN 9780785109693. pap. $19.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Loeb and Sale (Batman: The Long Halloween) explore the moving origin of the most human superhero in Marvel’s universe, Daredevil. This volume, first published in 2003, follows Matt Murdock as he avenges his father’s murder, opens a law firm, and battles his first supervillains, all while falling in love. Loeb’s writing touches on a range of emotions while managing to inject some humor into Daredevil’s battle with his demons. Sale’s art is a great match for the character, as he captures the grace and power of Daredevil’s movements.
Verdict This is a great read for anyone who likes origin stories, superheroes, or tales of overcoming obstacles. The characters are both likable and relatable, and the story focuses on the human side of the superhero, with the villains never able to make it into the spotlight. The duo of Loeb and Sale once again bring a refreshing perspective to a great character.‚ Ryan Claringbole, Chesapeake P.L., VA

Oku, Hiroya. Gantz. Vol. 16. ISBN 9781595826633.
Oku, Hiroya. Gantz. Vol. 17. ISBN 9781595826640.
Oku, Hiroya. Gantz. Vol. 18. ISBN 9781595827760.
ea. vol: Dark Horse. 2011. 224p. pap. $12.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Repeatedly thrown into combat against aliens by the mysterious entity known only as Gantz, young Kei Kurono and an ever-changing roster of friends, rivals, and nameless cannon fodder struggle to survive and make sense of their situation. In addition to the blood-soaked battle scenes readers have come to expect, these volumes reveal several surprising new twists. Chief among these are the death of Kei’s girlfriend, Tae, and the possibility of her resurrection if Kei can rack up 100 points in Gantz’s murderous game. To do so, he and the team will have to overcome the deadliest, most bizarre group of aliens yet! Despite some welcome scenes of character development, plot details are still in short supply. Readers hoping for any clues about Gantz’s origins, plans, or ultimate goal will again be frustrated.
Verdict This long-running hit series provides a full day’s supply of blood, guts, guns, swords, sex, death, and monsters. Recommended for mature readers who crave intense action.‚ Neil Derksen, Gwinnett Cty. P.L., Lawrenceville, GA

Phillips, Gary (text) & Brian Hurtt (illus.). Cowboys. Vertigo: DC. (Vertigo Crime). 2011. 192p. ed. by Will Dennis. ISBN 9781401215347. $19.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
After discovering a murdered tax attorney, black undercover police detective Deke Kotto sheds his dreads and beard to take on the persona of a squeaky-clean suit who investigates layoffs of black workers at a Southern plant owned by the Windscape corporation. White FBI agent Tim Brady goes undercover as a financial wizard and inserts himself into the network of hip-hop record producer Mig Coles. While family man Brady succumbs to drugs and easy women, Kotto’s womanizing continues as he discovers illegal deals among Windscape, Nightstar, and other companies. Additionally, a terrorist known as Aziz, who is also Mig’s cousin, is receiving funds via money laundered by Mig’s record deals.
Verdict Phillips, author of the Ivan Monk Mysteries (e.g., Violent Spring), spins a murky, complex, meandering tale. The premise is interesting, as a black cop and a white FBI agent seek to unravel intertwined criminal enterprises without knowing about each other until their ultimate violent confrontation. Hurtt’s (Queen & Country) clean, atmospheric black-and-white illustrations complement this noirish, grimy story filled with marital infidelity; however, the tale falls flat as it relies on stereotypical characterizations and loses steam through its convoluted plot.‚ Jeff Hunter, Royal Oak, MI

Ralph, Brian. Daybreak. Drawn & Quarterly. 2011. 160p. ISBN 9781770460553. $21.95. GRAPHIC NOVELS
While anything zombie gets attention these days‚ sometimes more than it deserves‚ Ralph’s debut stands out from the rest of the undead horde, because it takes an inward and personal approach, like all good indie comics, to the idea of trying to survive in the land of the walking dead. Written and drawn from a first-person perspective, Daybreak pulls us into a world where humans are prey who scavenge for food and hide in makeshift shelters after nightfall. We follow a one-armed man who welcomes us into his home and schools us on his daily survival rituals. Slightly abstract line drawings and beady-eyed people build an aesthetic that’s more art house than artifice. And the content mirrors that vibe with a story line focused on companionship, trust, and introspection rather than guts, blood, and monotone chants of brains.
Verdict Ultimately, this book is a voyeur’s journey into zombie Armageddon, where the cruelest trick isn’t what these monsters do to us but how alone they make us feel. For all zombie completists and pulp horror movie fanatics; but the dynamic appeal is really for cultural outliers who prefer the prefix indie in front of their entertainment options.‚ Robert Morast, Fargo, ND

Rushkoff, Douglas (text) & Goran Sudzuka (illus.). A.D.D.: Adolescent Demo Division. Vertigo: DC. 2012. 152p. ISBN 9781401223557. $24.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Nonfiction author Rushkoff (Program or Be Programmed) weaves together an sf tale that is reminiscent of the best of Philip K. Dick and Robert A. Heinlein. A.D.D. follows a group of teenagers who are employed by the media conglomerate NextGen as testers; they enjoy celebrity status as professional video gamers and television stars, but they have never seen the world outside their dormitories and spend all day, every day, consuming mass quantities of media. When one especially insightful teen starts to see the cracks form in their highly sheltered existence and a tragic event ignites his suspicion in NextGen’s motives, he teams up with another tester and, with the help of an intrepid reporter, seeks to unearth the secrets behind the life of the testers‚ and their dark future.
Verdict Fans of old-school, trippy sf who desire an update to the genre will gobble this up, even if they’re new to comics. With violent content and some nudity, it’s suggested for mature readers with good reason.‚ M. Brandon Robbins, Wayne Cty. P.L., Goldsboro, NC

Tendo, Shoko (text) & Michiru Morikawa (illus.). Yakuza Moon: The True Story of a Gangster’s Daughter; The Manga Edition. Kodansha. 2011. 192p. adapted by Sean Michael Wilson. ISBN 9784770031464. pap. $15.95. MEMOIR
Wilson (The Story of Lee) and International Manga and Anime Festival award winner Morikawa have converted into manga Tendo’s memoir of her experiences as a Japanese yakuza boss’s daughter. Beginning with her childhood, Tendo depicts the peer teasing and family dynamics that influenced her teenage rebellion and choice in men. With brutal honesty, she shares intimate details about her various relationships and her drug use, culminating in an unexpected twist that redirects her life once again. Morikawa’s black-and-white illustrations are engaging, and she is able to convey the emotions in each situation through her focus on the characters’ eyes, which creates a more complex understanding of Tendo’s experience and pulls readers into her journey.
Verdict Readers familiar with the memoir will find that this version follows the same chapter breakdown and includes text from the original; those new to the story will appreciate it as a fast-paced tell-all about a culture many do not know much about. The Mature Content label on the cover is probably for its inclusion of abuse, physical violence, sexual content, nudity, and drugs.‚ Joanna Schmidt, Fort Worth, TX

Tobin, Paul (text) & Juan Ferreyra (illus.). Falling Skies. Dark Horse. 2011. 104p. ISBN 9781595827371. pap. $9.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
This prequel to TNT’s alien invasion TV series follows history professor Tom Mason and his three sons through postapocalyptic Boston. After the death of his wife, Mason believes hiding is key to survival‚ a strategy that fails when one of his sons is taken by the aliens. Picking up an AK-47, Mason joins a militia and meets pediatrician‚ turned‚ field medic Anne Glass. Tobin (Spider-Girl) exceeds media tie-in expectations, giving readers a thrilling look at the months after the initial attack. Mason’s narration never overwhelms the action and shows how he struggles with being a father, an educator, and a soldier. Ferreyra (Rex Mundi) drafts dynamic action scenes and captures the likenesses of actors Noah Wyle (Mason) and Moon Bloodgood (Glass) without falling into lifeless realism. Sketches in the back matter demonstrate his process.
Verdict Falling Skies is a hit on television (having Steven Spielberg’s name attached helps), so there’s a built-in audience for this book. Also, while the majority of the book collects a web comic available freely online, it also contains a story previously available only at the most recent New York Comic Con.‚ Terry Bosky, Palm Beach

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"